Not since Kevin McHale was snubbed for his groundbreaking guest role on "Cheers" have Northern Minnesotans had this much interest in the outcome of the Emmys.
The Northern Minnesota-based FX drama "Fargo," inspired by the Coen Brothers movie of the same name, earned 18 Emmy nominations in the mini-series category yesterday, including nods for the four actors who portrayed the main roles. I filed episode-by-episode reviews of "Fargo" from my unique perch here in the real Northern Minnesota.
I started watching the show with a healthy dose of skepticism but quickly came around when the dramatic craftsmanship of Noah Hawley and his team became apparent. What began as an opportunity to make jokes about regional continuity errors quickly became a well-read feature of my blog, as fans gathered to talk about the latest episodes and as questions about Bemidji, Duluth and other places depicted in "Fargo."
"Fargo" was not a traditional style TV drama. It was designed as a "one off," a 10-episode run that would end definitively after a single season. That's how they got so many relatively big stars to do roles both big and small. But Hawley said that he would be open to doing another, similar season, albeit with all new characters and probably in an all new venue. He's described his vision as being a "true crime of the Midwest" series that would stay fresh by leaping through time and location. ("True Crime" being part of the irony here; despite the disclaimer at the beginning of each episode, "Fargo" is entirely fictional).
So there's no guarantee that the next show would be based in Northern Minnesota, but it would probably be fairly nearby if it weren't. Though it's not official yet, sources are saying a new second season of "Fargo" is likely. But some of the first season's stars seem resigned to the fact that they won't be a part of the new one.
Turning back to the Emmy's for a moment, the 18 nominations for "Fargo" all come in the "Best Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special" category. This was a strategic move by FX, as the show would also have been eligible to be entered in the Best Drama category (where HBO's similarly-formatted "True Detective" ended up). But the move did allow all of the show's deserving people to be nominated and may set it up for a historic sweep if Emmy voters like the show as much as critics did.
Billy Bob Thornton (Lorne Malvo) and Martin Freeman (Lester Nygaard) were both nominated for Best Actor in a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special." In a move that I question, Allison Tolman (Molly Soverson) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the miniseries category. I had long considered her a leading actress, the protagonist that counterbalanced the evil of Thornton and Freeman's characters. So it goes. Colin Hanks (Gus Grimely) was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in this category, meaning all four of the "main" characters were nominated.
I would have liked to see some of the out standing guest actors get nominated for this series -- Russell Harvard, Adam Goldberg, Bob Odenkirk -- but none of them got the call.
Noah Hawley was nominated for writing, where he is very deserving, and two directors were nominated for different episodes: Adam Bernstein for "The Crocodile's Dilemma" and Colin Bucksey for "Buridan's Ass." My personal feeling is that "Buridan's Ass" is the best episode in the whole series, its only fault being that it was so much better than the others that the finale had a hard time catching up to the expectations. So that's my favorite.
So we'll see what happens on Monday, Aug. 25 when the Emmy's awards ceremony is held in Los Angeles. Then we will find out if "Fargo" is coming back, and "where" it will happen. My vote is for the Iron Range. Noah! Call me!
Most every little hamlet in Minnesota claims some special Fourth of July tradition. After all, Minnesota was born in the patriotic fervor preceding the Civil War, swaddled in the stars and stripes and raised to feed, build and Bob Dylan-ize America. A territory founded on the cornerstone of community (and large, powerful railroads), the Fourth of July is a special time in the North Star State.
But this time of year always reminds me of the special traditions that exist in my homeland: Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. This mining region in northern St. Louis and Itasca counties was sacred Ojibwa land before becoming home to immigrants from 43 nations on Earth. About the only thing everyone shared was the desire to have fun and demonstrate patriotism in the middle of the summer. So, sure, we do up the Independence Day parades and fireworks as well as anyone (though the locals would say that's an understatement). But the entire Iron Range Fourth of July experience? Can't be beat. It is a wholly unique cultural phenomenon.
Every year at my blog I detail the parades, street dances and fireworks that highlight the Iron Range Fourth of July. For many, especially those who only make one trip "home" from someplace else, these events are the apex of summer.
There's a flip side, though. These Iron Range expatriates returning to their roots invariably bring new people with them. City people. Farm people. People from other states or even other countries. These new husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends are told precious little about what they will really see until they get here. As such, today I present the following …
What are your Iron Range Fourth of July stories?
For much of Bob Dylan's meteoric career arc, most people in his Iron Range hometown of Hibbing called him Bobby Die-lin and wondered what he was singing about. Some still do, but by now the practice is reserved as a sort of passive-aggressive protest by people who wish they could get paid that much to warble into a microphone.
I was born in Hibbing in 1979, raised nearby. I've edited the city's newspaper and now teach at its community college, all long after Dylan had become a household name across the world. This puts me in the position to say, yes, things have changed. Dylan was quoted saying, "I've been around iron all my life," this year, and he talks more about his Range roots than ever before. Meantime, Hibbing is commemorating its role in the Dylan story in ways the city would not have considered when I started out.
This weekend, May 23-24, 2014 Hibbing, Minnesota, welcomes people from all over the world to join with artists, writers and musicians in celebrating the accomplishments of Bob Dylan and the interesting North Country mining town where he grew up.
For the complete list of Dylan Days 2014 events, see the schedule. Souvenir buttons, which cost $5 and serve as our unofficial "tickets," will be available at events. If you have any questions during your stay in Hibbing check in at Howard Street Booksellers, where you can also get your button any time during the event.
The Kramer exhibit will be on display all summer in 2014, and it is a must-see event for any Dylan fan looking for a Hibbing experience. The Times are a' changing' in Bob Dylan's hometown.
With the closure of the iconic Zimmy's Restaurant in Hibbing, this year's Dylan Days will take on new look. That same closure is causing the Dylan Days organization to plan a hiatus until new organizers with a modified mission step forward to keep the event going. Personally, I've been trying to interest area musicians in throwing a music festival during the same weekend next year. If you have any ideas or interest, let me know.
(PHOTO: Daniel Kramer, for promotional use with GRAMMY Museum exhibit "Daniel Kramer: Photographs of Bob Dylan," on display in Hibbing through Aug. 23).